Vacations Honoring Veterans
By Celece Seegmiller for The Spectrum Newspaper, November 5, 2013
In 1944, a brave high school senior left the comforts of home to fight in World War II. Thankfully, he returned home safely, married his sweetheart, and eventually became the man I call Grandpa Ned. For me, the month of November is not only a time to give thanks, but to remember our veterans. Because of my grandfather, I have always had a strong appreciation for our veterans who courageously and selflessly served our country. Since Veterans Day is just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to write about some of the memorable vacations around the world that honor our veterans:
Normandy, France: June 6, 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy. On June 6, 1944 Allied forces crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France to liberate Western Europe from the occupation of Nazi Germany. With 176,000 troops arriving by landing craft and ships as well as nearly 14,000 aircraft, the Allied forces were able to secure Northern France within 3 months despite a vicious effort by Nazi forces. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial was established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944, two days after the beginning of the Normandy Invasion. Here lie the graves of 9,387 men, many of whom remain un-identified to this day (d-day70years.org). There are various ways to visit Normandy including escorted tours, river cruises, and ocean cruising.
Collette Vacations is offering a ten day escorted tour that marks the 70th anniversary of the epic D-Day landings. Passengers will see Paris through the eyes of those who survived its occupation and liberation. At the Normandy coast, they will visit Rommel’s castle headquarters and the Caen Memorial Peace Museum. Here they can explore the landmarks of D-Day, including the Pointe Du Hoc Ranger Memorial and the parachute-shaped Airborne museum in the town of St. Mere Eglise. Guests will look out over the beaches whose code names echo through history – Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah. Along the way guests will discover the culture of Northern France at Chartres and come to know the stories of the men and women who gave so much in the name of freedom.
One of our most popular Normandy vacations is the Paris and Normandy River Cruise. This eight day itinerary combines the magic of Paris with the beauty of France’s Norman countryside. Travelers will experience history firsthand at the Normandy beaches, see the Gothic architecture of Rouen, and see where Joan of Arc was tried and executed. They will visit the exquisite gardens of Giverny, whose rich palette inspired Impressionist Claude Monet for many years; walk the cobblestone streets of Vernon; and see the world’s most romantic city, Paris. This itinerary can be combined this with an extended cruise to Beaune, Lyon, Vienne, Tournon, Arles, and Avignon, making it the France vacation of a lifetime.
On May 24th, the Celebrity Eclipse will sail on a 14 night Scandinavia and Russia cruise from Southampton. The ship will be in Le Harve , France on D-Day for the 70th anniversary. Celebrity offers various shore excursions that day including the Beaches of Normandy and the Bloody Gulch Battle tour.
South Pacific: There are many sites to see in this area, but on June 14th, Paul Gauguin Cruises will sail from Fiji to Sydney on a special itinerary featuring World War II sites. Guests embark in Lautoka, Fiji’s “Sugar City” and cruise to Vanuatu, the island chain that inspired James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Tales of the South Pacific. Next is Guadalcanal, whose very name is synonymous with a turning point of World War II. Then it’s Papua New Guinea, set on the second-largest island in the world. Guests visit the island of Bougainville, with its World War II sites, traditional handicrafts, and natural wonders. Rabaul, features fantastical landscape frozen in lava is reminiscent of Pompeii; and Samarai Island, a National Historical Heritage Island. Guests disembark in Cairns, Australia, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. It is the cruise of a lifetime for anyone wanting to see historic World War II sites and some of the exotic ports in the South Pacific.
Ned and LeRae Cundick at the World War II Memorial
Washington, D.C.: . In Washington, D.C., travelers have the opportunity to pay their respects to our veterans at various monuments, memorials, and museums including Arlington Cemetery, Iwo Jima, Koren War, Vietnam, Holocaust Museum, and more. 2014 also marks the tenth anniversary of the World War II Memorial. The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people.
My grandfather did not speak about his experiences in the war until recently. A few years ago, I watched tears roll down his face as he spoke about a battle in the South Pacific. He described watching the destroyer next to him go down and sadly, two of his cousins were on it. The only other time we spoke about the war was when I took my grandparents and mother on a tour to Washington, D.C. I will never forget the emotion that overcame our family as we visited the World War II Memorial. Listening to their stories about World War II and watching my mother as she saw the names of her friends on the Vietnam wall is something that I will always treasure. There have been many memorable travel experiences in my life, but this particular tour was priceless.
Because my grandfather was an avid golfer, I refer to this time in his life as “the back nine and close to the 18th hole”. He has been in and out of the hospital battling congestive heart failure for months. I don’t know how much time I have left with him, but I do know how grateful I am for his military service. Like many men and women, he was so brave to leave everything to fight for our freedom at such a young age.
They say travel brings history to life. You can read about events in a text book, but actually being there in person and experiencing the feeling of these sacred places around the world is a vacation you will cherish forever…I know I will.